Celtics react to Donald Sterling controversy

Comments in an audio recording, purportedly from NBA team owner Donald Sterling (center), disparage multiple minority groups.
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press/File
Comments in an audio recording, purportedly made by NBA team owner Donald Sterling (center), disparage multiple minority groups.

While the NBA world offered various reactions to the racially-charged statements allegedly made by Los Angeles Clippers owners Donald Sterling, Celtics majority partner Wyc Grousbeck refrained from offering an opinion, diverting any statements to commissioner Adam Silver.

Sterling made national headlines Saturday when an audio tape of an argument allegedly between the owner and his girlfriend, obtained by TMZ, included several racial statements by Sterling after the woman posted a picture of her and Magic Johnson on her Instagram account.

According to the tape, a voice believed to be Sterling’s admonishes his girlfriend for being seen publicly with African-Americans and said he did not want her to bring African-Americans to Clippers games.


“Yeah, it bothers me a lot that you want to promo . . . broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?” the voice thought to be Sterling’s said to a woman identified by TMZ as V. Stiviano. “You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that . . . and not to bring them to my games.”

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The statements have caused a firestorm throughout the NBA community and Silver said Saturday night from Memphis that the league is conducting a full investigation and will have a decision on Sterling soon. He said Sterling will not attend Sunday’s Game 4 of the Western Conference first-round series between the Clippers and Golden State Warriors in Oakland.

When reached by the Globe, Grousbeck said in an e-mail: “We stand as one league led by Commissioner Adam Silver and he speaks for us.”

Grousbeck added to his statement in an e-mail to the Globe Sunday.

“Adam Silver is leading the NBA response to the alleged comments. I will say that what I heard on that tape goes against everything the Celtics stand for and our ownership, players, coaches, and fans reject it.”


The Clippers and Celtics are linked after the June 2013 deal that sent coach Doc Rivers to Los Angeles for a first-round pick. Rivers addressed reporters following the Clippers’ practice in San Francisco on Saturday and appeared visibly upset. Clippers players did not address the media. Rivers said a potential boycott of Game 4 was discussed but never seriously considered.

A source close to the situation said Sterling’s statements were not that much of a surprise to those in the organization and he hopes the comments aren’t a distraction to the players.

Former Celtics great Cedric Maxwell, who played 1½ seasons for the Sterling-owned Clippers in the 1980s, said if it is indeed Sterling’s voice on the tape, strong action should be taken.

Cedric Maxwell (left), shown with former Celtics teammate Chris Ford, said the NBA has to come down hard on Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
Jim Davis/Globe Staff/File
Cedric Maxwell (left), shown with former Celtics teammate Chris Ford, said the NBA has to come down hard on Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

“I never got any vibe like that from Donald Sterling [when I played there] but after listening to this taped conversation, there is no doubt what the new commissioner has to do,” Maxwell told the Globe. “And if you look at it realistically, this is [Silver’s] first real test and his first true statement. That team has to be sold. You have to put Donald Sterling in check and that team has to be sold.”

Maxwell said Rivers has a real challenge in keeping the players’ attention on basketball.


“If you are Doc Rivers, this is going to be his ultimate test,” Maxwell said. “What he has to do is focus on the games and somehow put a screen between his players and what is going on with the owner of this team because it is obvious right now, from what I heard Doc say, that his players were disgusted and [ticked] off.’’

Said Maxwell about Sterling: “He’s always been a rebel. He’s always been kind of out there as an owner. I think the [other owners] always wanted to reel him in as being a maverick but now he set himself in a position . . . what recourse do the other owners have when it comes to another owner talking this way publicly? As an owner, how do you stand behind him?”

Free agent guard Jerryd Bayless, who spent the past four months with the Celtics, sent out nine separate Tweets on the topic.

“I don’t think it would be right to penalize the fans and not play knowing they had nothing to do with it,” Bayless said on Twitter. “I also wouldn’t put on that jersey with Sterling still as the owner.”

Gary Washburn can be reached at